Subject: Claude Giroux took a puck to the groin in warmups the other day
It’s not a football, but it’s still pretty hilarious.
The Philadelphia Flyers beat the Tampa Bay Lightning, and all rejoiced. Claude Giroux picked up an assist on their third goal of the game - the one that ended up being the game winner, coming barely a minute after the Flyers took the lead.
It’s a good thing he was so fired up!
Lucky to have teammates that get me fired up before a game. https://t.co/XmhnOBRRSy— Claude Giroux (@28CGiroux) January 8, 2017
The moment in question that got him fired up? Well...
I mean, that’s something that’s guaranteed to wake you up, isn’t it?
Now... who’s the guy that shot it? He is very conveniently not identified.
That doesn’t change a couple of things, though. Number one: Giroux is the master of spin. A teammate nails you in that general area and you call it getting fired up. That’s the best possible way to handle this.
Number two: I can’t stop watching this. It’s hilarious. This is like, football-to-the-groin levels.
EXACTLY like it.
Subject: Flyers 4, Lightning 2: 10 things we learned from a rebound game
A five-game losing streak capped off by a listless loss to the Rangers had fans understandably worried, but the Flyers came back strong yesterday.
Morning Observations is a feature where we break down the previous night's game with an analytical eye.
#1: Best 5v5 game from the Flyers in weeks
It’s no secret that the Philadelphia Flyers haven’t been playing their best hockey lately, which their recent five-game skid served to illuminate. But even during the team’s ten-game win streak, the team generally wasn’t carrying play. In fact, they actually lost the shot attempts battle at 5v5 over the course of that run, posting a 48.04% score-adjusted Corsi. It’s not like they were thoroughly dominating the opposition on a nightly basis; they were winning because of great goaltending, an elite power play and elevated shooting percentages. And that’s fine in the short-term, but as the recent losing streak has proved, it might not be the most sustainable formula for success.
Yesterday, however, the Flyers simply outplayed their opponent. Even though they fell behind early in the contest, Philadelphia had the edge in the territorial battle from the start, and ended up winning the all-situations shots on goal battle 44-26. A good portion of that was driven by an edge in 5-on-5 play, where the Flyers posted a strong 54.07% score-adjusted Corsi and led in both regular (29-16) and high-danger scoring chances (10-7). It was a complete performance.
In fact, the last time the Flyers posted a score-adjusted Corsi over 54% and also came away with the victory was way back on December 3rd against the Chicago Blackhawks, and in that game, the Blackhawks had in the edge in scoring chances. In my opinion, you have to go all the way back to the victory over the Flames back in late November to find a game that saw Philadelphia so thoroughly dominate their opponent and also get the win.
#2: Flyers seem to have strong 5v5 games against Tampa Bay
The Lightning team that the Flyers faced yesterday was far from being at full strength. Steven Stamkos remains out, Ben Bishop is injured, and Braydon Coburn missed the game as well. However, Philadelphia has made a habit of outplaying even strong Tampa Bay teams, particularly since Dave Hakstol has taken over as the Flyers’ head coach. In six games against the Lightning since 2015-16, Philadelphia has a 54.94% score-adjusted Corsi and has won the scoring chance battle in four out of the six games. They had maybe their strongest 5v5 game of the season last year against Tampa in March (a season-high 76 shot attempts), and also carried play back in November of this year, only to fall 3-0 due to a stellar game from Andrei Vasilevskiy. Regardless, the Flyers have had little trouble at 5v5 against the Lightning recently.
Still, we’re only talking about six games here. There is always the possibility that it’s just a small sample size-induced fluke, though I’m starting to think otherwise. The Flyers always seem to own the neutral zone against the Lightning, clogging up passing lanes while easily finding ones of their own. The “Flyers are a bad matchup for Tampa” theory is supported by the fact that the two worst play-driving defensemen on the Lightning yesterday were Anton Stralman and Viktor Hedman, obviously both elite blueliners. Tampa has some roster flaws right now, but if that was the only reason the Flyers dominated, you’d think that they would have feasted on the weaker defensive pairs. Instead, Philadelphia took it to their best guys, hinting at a possible deeper issue.
#3: New Giroux line solid
It wasn’t a shock to see Dave Hakstol juggle the Flyers’ line combinations in the wake of an ugly loss to the Rangers on Wednesday. But the new-look top line was a bit of a surprise. Michael Raffl stayed up with Claude Giroux, but Matt Read was the forward who replaced Jakub Voracek on the right. Read got off to a hot scoring start this year, but eventually settled back into his usual role as a defense-first winger prior to his abdominal injury that put him on the shelf for a month. He’s clearly a useful player, but not an obvious choice for a stint on the top line.
Read is a stellar puck possession player, though, specifically due to his plus play in the neutral zone. Combine that with Raffl’s always strong play-driving, and it gave the top line two of the best Corsi players on the team. The real question was whether the trio could score. Yesterday, they did just that, as Raffl blasted a one-timer past Vasilevskiy in the second period courtesy of a Giroux feed, helping to justify the coach’s decision. As for the underlying metrics, the line did drive play for the most part (Raffl and Read both finished with Corsi percentages over 55%), though they did get pinned in their own zone a few times late in the game. On the whole, however, the first line experiment appeared to work.
#4: Tampa isn’t the old Tampa
It seems like the Flyers under Hakstol may be a bad stylistic matchup for the Lightning, but it’s also fair to note that this Tampa Bay team is a far cry from the Cup contender squads of recent past. They’re currently out of a playoff spot, and that isn’t a big surprise when you look at their underlying metrics. Tampa ranks 21st in the league with a 49.27% score-adjusted Corsi percentage, and their shot quality metrics fall closely in line with that as well. Even a much-improved power play hasn’t been enough to outweigh their legitimate issues.
So what’s the problem in Tampa? The forward corps still looks strong on paper, even with Stamkos injured. The bigger issue has been the defense, which frankly falls off a cliff after Hedman and Stralman. Former Flyer Braydon Coburn (who missed yesterday’s game) has been solid, but Jason Garrison has regressed with age, Slater Koekkoek hasn’t developed like they hoped, and Andrej Sustr simply isn’t very good. The Flyers were in this same position a few years ago — good forwards but a bad defense past the top guys — and it turned them into a bubble playoff team. That issue is doing the same to a Lightning squad that appeared to be a championship favorite in October.
#5: Fourth line was atrocious
The minute that it became clear that Boyd Gordon would be starting in place of Roman Lyubimov, it was obvious that Dave Hakstol would be leaning heavily upon his top three lines in this game. After all, in his 12 games played prior to yesterday, Gordon received more than seven minutes of 5v5 ice time just twice. Basically, whenever Boyd Gordon plays on the fourth line, it’s rarely used during 5-on-5 situations, and yesterday was no different. But even with Gordon, Chris VandeVelde and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare getting far less minutes than their teammates, they found a way to hurt the team dramatically.
In a game that saw the Flyers carry play basically from start to finish, each member of the fourth line finished with score-adjusted Corsi For percentages below 27%. They also were on the ice for Tampa Bay’s first goal, which was maybe the only shift in the first period where the Flyers didn’t totally take the play to the Lightning. The truly frustrating part is that “fixing” this line really wouldn’t be that hard.
For starters, Roman Lyubimov should never leave the lineup when healthy and capable of playing hockey. He’s a great forechecker and has a positive Corsi For% RelTM, meaning that his teammates drive play better with him than away from him. I’m not going to pile on Chris VandeVelde too much, because he’s actually delivered decent results this year, but using Scott Laughton or Taylor Leier as the 4LW would certainly be a talent upgrade. And then there’s Bellemare, who can supposedly “can play up [in the lineup] if we need him to” even though he has a whopping four points in 41 games. It’s a positive that the line’s minutes have been cut dramatically since Couturier returned from injury, but they can still do damage even in limited time.
#6: Gostisbehere struggled again
I’ve been a vocal defender of Shayne Gostisbehere this season, even as he’s received criticism both from fans wanting a repeat of his magical rookie year, and writers who feel his defensive game has regressed. All of Ghost’s 5v5 play-driving metrics remain stellar, however, and have actually improved from last season. But Gostisbehere certainly is capable of delivering poor performances, and yesterday was legitimately one of those times.
Aside from the fourth line trio, Gostisbehere was the only Flyers’ player to post a score-adjusted Corsi below 40 percent, and the eye test matched the stats. Ghost struggled with turnovers, and his positioning and decision-making was off as well. Looking at the tape, I believe the Lightning’s first goal was mostly on Gostisbehere, as he pinched way up in the neutral zone and did not recognize that Vladislav Namestnikov was sneaking up the right side of the ice, giving Tampa Bay a 2-on-1 edge if they could successfully execute a pass across the red line, as they did. Ghost also struggled on Wednesday with turnovers, even if his play-driving metrics were solid. I don’t think this is any time to panic, but the dynamic defenseman is legitimately going through a bit of a rough patch right now.
#7: Radko Gudas, on the other hand, was stellar
It’s crazy to think that just two seasons ago, Radko Gudas was basically just a throw-in piece in the trade that brought Braydon Coburn to Tampa Bay. Since then, the burly defenseman has not only righted the ship, he’s turned into his team’s most reliable all-around defenseman. Yesterday, you could make a strong case that Gudas was the best player on the ice for both squads. Gudas scored a goal, generated five shots on Vasilevskiy, and led the Flyers both in minutes (24:35) and in score-adjusted Corsi at 69.39%. He was a monster.
His skillset remains unorthodox, especially for a blueliner who delivers such positive results. In some ways, he’s a throwback defenseman in that he’s straight up mean on the ice, and has earned a reputation (not unwarranted) for dirtiness. He also blocks lots of shots and racks up tons of hits. But he’s a high-volume shooter, and is somehow a plus player in the neutral zone despite not being especially strong in rush coverage. His goal helped to explain why that is the case. Jason Garrison attempted a long pass to a waiting teammate in the neutral zone, and Gudas alertly stepped in, intercepted it, and then engineered a rush back up ice. I believe it’s those aggressive instincts in the middle of the ice that make him such an effective defenseman, more than anything else.
#8: Weise helped the new-look third line work
Dale Weise was been a major disappointment for the Philadelphia Flyers in his first season with the team. Through the first half, Weise has just four points (two goals, two assists) and not even strong play-driving metrics can totally make up for his complete ineffectiveness in the offensive zone. When Hakstol shook up the lines this week, it seemed possible than Weise could leave the lineup in favor of Nick Cousins, who shared time on the third line in practice with Weise, Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds. Obviously the latter two aren’t sitting, so it seemed clear that Weise was battling for that final spot with Cousins.
Though Weise (again) didn’t contribute on the scoresheet, he was a big reason why the new Schenn worked so well yesterday. We don’t have the manually tracked data yet, but to my eyes it looked like Weise was a controlled entry machine against the Lightning, especially early on. He even sprung Nick Schultz(!) for a breakaway at one point. We know that entries with possession tend to drive more shots than dump-ins, so it’s not surprising that the Weise-Schenn-Simmonds line dominated in terms of attempt differential, as all three forwards finished with Corsis over 59%. It’s just one game, but that line showcased real potential, using brute strength to excel in the game but possessing enough neutral zone skill to enter the attacking third of the ice with control of the puck.
#9: Provorov had a great game, still didn’t drive play
It was impossible to watch yesterday’s game and not come away impressed with Ivan Provorov. Every aspect of his game was on display — shot creation, entry defense, poise with the puck in the defensive zone. He even added a well-earned assist on Sean Couturier’s goal, which was only possible because of Provorov’s quick, low shot from the point that created a rebound. Yet somehow, the play-driving metrics didn’t match the quality of Provorov’s performance. He finished with a 48.14% score-adjusted Corsi, -12.19% relative to his teammates.
The only explanation that makes sense to me given the disparity because Provorov’s apparent stellar game and the fact that the Flyers were outshot while he was on the ice is the quality of his defensive partner. Andrew MacDonald remains joined at the hip to Provorov, and he was his usual “passive in the neutral zone, indecisive with the puck” self. Frankly, I’m starting to worry that this pairing simply won’t be broken up. This past week, the duo finally faced some goal prevention regression, as teams began to score with the Provorov-MacDonald pairing on the ice to match the horrific play-driving metrics (43.0% Corsi For together). But that didn’t result in Hakstol trying something new, even as he shook up all the forward lines. Maybe things change after Mark Streit is back, but I’m starting to worry that the Flyers coaching staff is falling in love with a pairing that all of the metrics hint is not going to work over the long-term.
#10: Couturier line is just a good idea
Over the first month of the season, the “second” line of Travis Konecny, Sean Couturier and Jakub Voracek really was the team’s top unit. Despite some occasional defensive hiccups, no line was more threatening to the opposition on a nightly basis, unsurprising considering it consisted of the team’s best play-driving center flanked by the two most dynamic wingers on the roster. But even before Couturier went down to injury, the unit was broken up, ostensibly to use Voracek to help get Claude Giroux and the top line going.
Yesterday saw the reunion of the old Couturier line, though, and they picked up right where they left off. They scored the Flyers’ first two goals of the game, while also driving play. The unit isn’t a true possession juggernaut, though it is solid (53% Corsi For in 207.29 minutes at 5v5). It’s the offensive creativity that really shines through, as they can score on the cycle (as Couturier did) or in transition (like Konecny). Opponents can’t let up for a second, because this trio will make them pay. It’s good to have them back.
Subject: Flyers at Blue Jackets: Lineups, TV/broadcast info, and discussion thread
Having broken their post-break losing streak, the Flyers head to Ohio to try and take on the biggest surprise in this NHL season.
Quick game thread today as the Flyers cap off a weekend back-to-back with their first game of the year against the Columbus Blue Jackets, who as you may have heard recently had a very long winning streak. They’ve since lost two in a row, including a gut-punch of a loss last night to the Rangers, so we’ll see how they look tonight.
Today’s game is on TCN and can be streamed on CSNPhilly.com through your cable provider. Elsewhere, you can view this one on Fox Sports Ohio, NHL.TV, or NHL Center Ice.
No word on lineup changes, but after yesterday’s strong showing from the Flyers we’ll assume that the only change made is in net, where Steve Mason will likely start against his old team.
- Michael Raffl - Claude Giroux - Matt Read
- Travis Konecny - Sean Couturier - Jake Voracek
- Nick Cousins - Brayden Schenn - Wayne Simmonds
- Chris VandeVelde - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Boyd Gordon
- Ivan Provorov - Andrew MacDonald
- Michael Del Zotto - Radko Gudas
- Brandon Manning - Shayne Gostisbehere
- Steve Mason
- Michal Neuvirth
Columbus lineup (via)
- Brandon Saad - Alex Wennberg - Nick Foligno
- Boone Jenner - Brandon Dubinsky - Cam Atkinson
- Matt Calvert - William Karlsson - Josh Anderson
- Steve Hartnell - Lukas Sedlak - Sam Gagner
- Zach Werenski - Seth Jones
- Jack Johnson - David Savard
- Ryan Murray - Markus Nutivaara
- Sergei Bobrovsky
- Curtis McElhinney
Subject: Flyers at Blue Jackets recap: Some nights you don’t get the breaks
A pair of questionable goal reviews forced the Flyers to claw back in the final minute to tie the game up before ultimately succumbing in overtime.
The Flyers played a pretty even game tonight, on the road, against a Columbus Blue Jackets team that is a few days removed from the end of a 16-game winning streak. They lost said game by a score of 2-1 thanks to an overtime goal by the home team, completing a close-fought but still tough-to-swallow loss to a division rival.
For the Flyers, this one will go down as a game of just-missed chances and tough breaks, chief among them a pair of challenges that both ended up going in the Blue Jackets’ favor.
Just under two minutes into the game, Andrew MacDonald let a shot rip from near the blue line, and it would go bar-down past Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. The officials instantly called a goal, and it wasn’t until John Tortorella would call a challenge that the officials would go back and waive said goal off, deeming that Michael Raffl pushed Columbus defenseman Ryan Murray into Bobrovsky and thus rendering him unable to make the save.
Flyers goal called back for goaltender interference pic.twitter.com/bKtlSrjfb3— GIF Grand Maester (@myregularface) January 8, 2017
The other particularly important call later in the game that didn’t swing the Flyers’ way was a second-period shot from David Savard that would find its way past Mason. Dave Hakstol would ultimately decide to challenge this one for goaltender interference, and after some time to review, the league would turn down his challenge, deeming that Columbus forward Josh Anderson didn’t interfere with Mason in such a way that prevented him from making the save.
Pardon? You want to tell me that Anderson’s left skate here doesn’t clearly impede Mason’s attempt to move across the crease?
Clear skate to skate interference, but it's a good goal. pic.twitter.com/rmEIkr7tVU— Sons of Penn (@SonsofPenn) January 9, 2017
Now, it’s true: we’re all homers, different people will see these two calls in different ways, and we should look at the two separately, as the refs’ priority is to get the calls on the ice right rather than play both sides of the game evenly. But for about 59 minutes of the game, this was the story of the night for the Flyers, because it’s really tough to see two similar calls like that on opposite ends of the ice both go towards the other team.
With that said, this was also the story of the game for most of the night because honestly not a whole lot else happened in this one. The Flyers only had one power play in the game. Brayden Schenn whiffed on two golden chances right at point-blank range, including one not long after Savard’s goal where he skied a puck above the crossbar from about six feet away despite staring at an empty net.
But it was Schenn who would redeem himself for those missed chances in the final minute of regulation, as he’d put the puck past Bobrovsky with the extra attacker to put the Flyers on the board and tie the game up.
That would give the Flyers a point that looked unlikely for much of the evening, but it’d be the only one they’d get, as a pass into traffic by Jakub Voracek would give Columbus a 3-on-2 in overtime that would turn into the game-winning goal by Nick Foligno.
The Flyers are back at it on Tuesday night against Buffalo, and they’ll play four games in the next seven days before they take their five-day bye week. Go Flyers.
Subject: Monday Morning Fly By: Get your refs together, NHL.
Today's open discussion thread, complete with your daily dose of Philadelphia Flyers news and notes...
*It was Michal Neuvirth's first game back after a long absence and he looked pretty good. [CSN Philly]
*Kate was at The Farg shooting the game, getting the good shots for your viewing pleasure. [BSH]
*Then last night against the Blue Jackets we got a hilarious bunch of hideously bad calls by the refs. RECAP!
*Ron Hextall has some decisions to make this season with regard to his goaltending situation, and one option would be to sign Steve Mason to a deal long enough to allow one of the goalie prospects to become "the guy". [Inquirer]
*Speaking of prospects, we may be seeing more of German Rubtsov soon. Maybe. [BSH]
*Midseason grades: offense edition! [Philly Voice]
*Midseason grades: the back end! [Philly Voice]
*On the most crazy job in sports: the NHL 1-day emergency goaltender. [CSN Philly]
*The NHL playing regular season games in China? Oh god could we just not. [Puck Daddy]
*And finally, this is a pretty cool look at the underlying costs of achieving an NHL career. [Pension Plan Puppets]
Subject: The Flyers will not have a third jersey in 2017-18
Nor will any other team in the NHL
Adidas is taking over for Reebok as the NHL’s jersey provider beginning next season, and for at least a year, that change will mean that teams will only have two uniforms. Adidas will not create third jerseys for the Flyers or any other NHL team in 2017-18.
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported the news this morning, saying that there will be no third jerseys “in order to make the initial implementation of the new sweaters easier.” That means we’ll just have the Flyers home orange and road white jerseys next season, and that the new black jersey that the team will wear next month in the Pittsburgh outdoor game will likely be retired after the season.
Adidas is expected to put their mark on sweaters across the NHL, although it’s not quite clear how they will do so.
Back in 2015, we speculated about some potential looks for the Flyers under the Adidas regime, including what might happen if/when the NHL allows teams to sell sponsorships on their jerseys. Since then, Adidas created the uniforms for the World Cup of Hockey, giving us a bit more clear of a sense of how they might approach NHL uniforms.
We know that they’ll feel a bit different. The fabric is different, and when Adidas talks about it, here’s what they say. (Sorry about all the buzzwords.)
Made with adidas’ cutting-edge adizero technology, the new uniform features the blending of three lightweight, resilient fabrics, which have been tested and tuned over the past four years. Engineered for durability, while providing greater airflow, the innovative adizero fabric has been developed to keep athletes cool and comfortable. Additionally, the new adizero cresting reduces weight, adds flexibility and improves overall movement, allowing players to perform at their highest levels.
We’re not really expecting dramatic visual changes for every team (at least not in year one), but we would be surprised if the new threads didn’t incorporate the three iconic Adidas stripes somehow. World Cup jerseys featured those three stripes down the side — could that become the new norm on all NHL uniforms?
Replica jerseys also changing in 2017-18
One other note on NHL uniforms next season: if you want a jersey with the Adidas logo on it (in other words, a jersey that looks just like what the players wear), you’re going to need to shell out the $300-plus for an authentic jersey. Fanatics is taking over all replica jersey manufacturing starting in 2017-18, and with that will be the Fanatics logo on all replica jerseys.
Beginning with the 2017-18 season, Fanatics will become the exclusive manufacturer and supplier of all adult replica NHL jerseys, the top tier of which will be called “The Breakaway.” The replica jerseys will be produced by Fanatics Branded, the company’s merchandise division, and will be designed with fan-first features that are intended for enhanced comfort and versatility. Fanatics will also offer a line of youth replica NHL jerseys.
Subject: Blue Jackets 2, Flyers 1: 10 things we learned from a hard-luck loss
Facing a tough matchup against the team with the best record in hockey, the Flyers played well enough to win.
Morning Observations is a feature where we break down the previous night's game with an analytical eye.
#1: The Flyers truly dealt with bad luck in this one
The word “luck” probably gets thrown around a bit too much in the hockey stat-based community to explain outcomes that don’t match up with the underlying metrics. Usually, a team that wins despite getting dominated from a Corsi standpoint wasn’t lucky, they just were especially accurate with their shots on that night, or maybe their goaltender played fantastic. That process may not be easily replicated (which is why teams that consistently get outshot don’t tend to be very good), but it’s not merely good fortune. However, there are some times when a team loses a game, and it’s not because the other team did anything especially noteworthy. That’s what happened last night to the Flyers — the breaks simply didn’t go their way.
All the underlying numbers were in Philadelphia’s favor. They won the shots battle at 5-on-5, finishing with a solid 52.81% score-adjusted Corsi and 57.26% SA-Fenwick (removing blocked shots from the equation). They also had more scoring chances, both at 5v5 and overall. The Flyers didn’t dominate the game, but on the whole they did generate more offense than a very strong Blue Jackets club. Columbus’ edge in this game really came as a result of three plays.
The first was an odd overturn of an Andrew MacDonald first period goal, which was negated due to Michael Raffl apparently nudging Ryan Murray into his own goalie. Then, a period later, a Blue Jackets goal was also reviewed for possible goalie interference, but that one held up despite there being a solid case that Steve Mason’s skate was clipped right before the shot, preventing him from making a save. And finally, Brayden Schenn failed to convert on a wide-open net, in a situation where he probably scores 99 times out of a 100. So in the end, it was two officiating decisions that both could have went the other way, and one freak mistake by Schenn that pushed this game into overtime. That’s about as close to a truly “bad luck” loss that you’re going to see in the NHL.
#2: Columbus’ bread and butter was their forecheck
This was the first look that Flyers fans have had of this new and improved Columbus Blue Jackets squad this season. Their rise has been meteoric and bizarre — just last year, they were a total disaster and one of the worst teams in hockey, and now the Blue Jackets aren’t just improved, they’ve delivered truly elite results. And that’s with the same coach, and only a few additions to the roster (Zach Werenski being the most impactful).
So how are they doing it? If this game was any indication, it’s by using an old John Tortorella staple — an ultra-aggressive forecheck. During their best moments in this one (especially early on), the Blue Jackets were swarming in the offensive zone to recover loose pucks and pressure Flyers zone exit attempts. The forecheck was basically a 2-1-2 on steroids, with the Blue Jackets often willing to send up to three players far below the faceoff dot. Columbus knows their strength is up front, as they are one of the few NHL teams that can legitimately roll four scoring lines, so a swarming forecheck does play to the roster well. What the Flyers showed in the majority of this game, however, is that if you can get past that forecheck, Columbus can be gashed for high-quality chances.
#3: Blue Jackets, Flyers showing why fourth lines are important
One of the secrets to Columbus’ success this season has been their willingness to play dangerous scorers on their fourth line, while their opponents continue to view it as a place to dump their penalty kill specialists or rough-and-tumble grinders. Last night, the Blue Jackets had Sam Gagner and Scott Hartnell playing on line four, and neither player would be totally out of place on most NHL teams’ top two units. The Flyers, as usual, rolled with Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Chris VandeVelde on their fourth line instead.
The disparity in talent between the Columbus and Flyers duos is staggering. Over the past three seasons, Bellemare has been the least efficient scoring forward at 5v5 in the entire NHL, while VandeVelde’s 39.2% Goals For percentage at 5v5 is 12th-worst in the league over that same time period. At least at even strength, these are not good NHL players. As a result, it was no surprise that the Bellemare line struggled in terms of Corsi, finishing in the sub-34% range. On the other hand, the Columbus fourth line was their second best play-driving line, trailing only the Jenner-Dubinsky-Atkinson unit. Stellar record aside, the Blue Jackets aren’t close to being a flawless team, but in terms of their bottom-of-the-lineup optimization strategies, they’re undeniably forward-thinking. Let’s hope that the Flyers were paying attention last night and make roster decisions in the future with that in mind.
#4: Giroux line strong yet again
The first game of the “Matt Read on the top line” experiment was an unqualified success. The line drove play and scored an even strength goal against the Lightning on Saturday, so they were justifiably kept together for a second go-around. And yet again, the trio drove play on almost every shift. Read actually led the squad in score-adjusted Corsi at 74.11 percent, and Raffl and Giroux weren’t far behind.
However, the line was unable to score a goal (just like the rest of the team at 5v5), and as a result, it was broken up in the third period as Hakstol moved Voracek up to play with Giroux and Raffl. If anything, the old top line looked less effective than the new one in their limited third period minutes. Going back Hakstol’s comments after Saturday's win, it doesn’t seem like he’s wedded to the idea of Read on the top line, but he may have actually found something here. I’d hate to see an unlikely success get thrown away too soon.
#5: The officials helped swing this outcome
It’s time to talk about the referees. I try to avoid bringing up “blown” calls in these Observations posts, for a few reasons. First, it’s nearly impossible to remove bias from a analysis of specific decisions by the officials. Second, and most importantly, I believe that individual calls rarely impact the game as much as we think. Even if there is one call that was missed at a key moment, there were probably a few other calls (or non-calls) that went your team’s way in the game that you don’t remember. In this game, however, the decisions by the officials did truly swing the game, so they’re definitely worth discussing.
The goal calls were the biggest in terms of impact. And truthfully, it’s hard to say whether the “right” decisions were made, because the rule is generally employed by officials in such an inconsistent way around the league. On MacDonald’s non-goal, Raffl did make contact with Murray, who then did jostle his own goalie, so there is a case to disallow. But it’s murky because Raffl was one step removed from the contact. Could Murray have made a great effort to avoid his goalie, or just taken a different route entirely across the ice? Almost certainly. It would have been easier to swallow for Flyers fans if the refs had simply set a standard that any contact with the opposing team’s goalie in this game would result in a disallowed goal, but then Mason’s skate was obviously clipped right before Columbus’ tally, and that goal was allowed to stand. The contact wasn’t much, but once the standard is set, you’d like to see it be adhered to on both sides. Instead, the Flyers ended up on the short end of the stick in two toss-up decisions, which is obviously tough to accept.
There were other questionable calls as well. Most blatant was the decision to not whistle Nick Foligno for burying Travis Konecny with a high hit long after the Flyers forward had lost control of the puck. But by the midway point of the game, the referees had swallowed their whistles entirely, letting both teams get away with multiple penalties. Still, the fact that the refs missed numerous on-ice penalties doesn’t create much confidence in their abilities to make the correct goal calls, and those are what truly swung the game.
#6: Brayden Schenn had himself a strange game
I’m on record as advocating for Brayden Schenn to be dropped in the lineup at 5-on-5 and primarily used as a power play specialist, due to his poor results in the situation this season and the fact that even assuming a bounceback, he is not statistically one of the Flyers’ six best 5v5 forwards. So a game where Schenn blew two golden opportunities at even strength only to be the hero at 6v5 would seem to support my position. However, Schenn’s performance last night wasn’t that simple. In fact, his line was legitimately fantastic at evens in terms of shot creation and prevention. Schenn himself finished with a 65.03% score-adjusted Corsi, and the Flyers won the high-danger scoring chance battle 5-0 with him on the ice. It was truly an “everything but the finish” game.
Of course, Schenn found a way to redeem himself late, scoring with 16.5 seconds left to send the game into overtime. And that’s basically been the story of his season — little to no even strength production saved by a stellar ability to rack up points with the man advantage. However, this line with Simmonds and Weise actually has driven play in two straight games, so the “Schenn is bad at evens” narrative doesn’t really fit this time, if the image of him missing on a wide open net can somehow be scrubbed from memories.
#7: Gudas struggled big time
Coming off one of his best games of a very strong season, Radko Gudas struggled mightily in this one. The numbers aren’t pretty (47.59% score-adjusted Corsi -14.89% relative to teammates) but if anything, they treat Gudas’ performance too kindly. His shift on Columbus’ only goal in regulation was a total disaster, and he struggled with turnovers all game long.
On Sunday, I noted that Gudas’ skillset is unorthodox for the type of game he plays — he’s a high-volume shooter without elite puck skills, and an aggressive neutral zone defender despite middling skating ability. Because his preferred style often has him playing above his natural skill level, his bad games can look really bad. It didn’t help that he was facing an ultra-aggressive forechecking team in Columbus, and defensive zone passing is one of the only true, measurable weaknesses in his game.
#8: Couturier line not at their best
Fans were rightfully excited when Dave Hakstol chose to reunite the always-dangerous “second” line of Travis Konecny, Sean Couturier and Jakub Voracek on Saturday, and they did not disappoint. However, their performance against the Blue Jackets was far less impressive. Only Voracek finished with a score-adjusted Corsi For percentage over 40%, and that was mostly due to time in the third period up with Giroux and Raffl.
The biggest issue for the line was defensive zone shot suppression and breakouts. On multiple occasions in the first and second periods, the unit wilted under Columbus’ forechecking, leading to entire shifts being spent without the puck. They were especially torched by the Jenner-Dubinsky-Atkinson line — in under four minutes against them, the Flyers allowed seven shot attempts against and generated just one of their own. The best way to “shut down” a great scoring line is to force them to play defense all the time, and that’s exactly what Columbus pulled off last night against Couturier and company.
#9: Odd ice time decisions late
The Flyers did find a way to nab a point due to Brayden Schenn’s late goal, but some strange choices by Dave Hakstol in the final minutes of regulation and overtime didn’t do much to help. With less than three minutes remaining and down one goal, Hakstol sent out the Bellemare line for a shift, a trio that had generated just four shot attempts together all game and not one high-danger scoring chance. Then, after Schenn tied things up, Hakstol sent Andrew MacDonald and Michael Del Zotto (the Flyers’ two worst play-driving d-men this season) onto the ice with the apparent goal of getting the game to overtime. Unsurprisingly, they were immediately pinned in their own end until the buzzer sounded. Finally, Dale Weise hit the ice for a shift in the 3-on-3 overtime with Sean Couturier, instead of Travis Konecny, Michael Raffl or Matt Read. All three decisions were tough to justify.
It would have been a different story if any of Bellemare, VandeVelde, MacDonald, Del Zotto or Weise had delivered an especially strong game. Weise was maybe the only one who played well (on the effective Schenn line) but his lack of offensive production this season makes him a less-than-ideal fit for the fast-paced, creative 3v3 overtime setting. It’s not that these decisions necessarily cost the Flyers anything — they still tied the game, got it to overtime, and Weise wasn’t on the ice for Columbus’ gamewinner. But it’s fair to say that the Flyers earned a point in spite of these strange choices, not because of them.
#10: Credit Hakstol for making intelligent pre-game roster moves, though
Like the vast majority of coaches, Dave Hakstol tends to adhere to the philosophy of not wanting to change his lineup in the wake of a strong victory, and the Flyers’ big win over the Lightning on Saturday certainly qualified. They won comfortably, and carried play by all of the key metrics. That’s why it was a pleasant surprise to see Hakstol make two lineup changes that served to put a stronger team on the ice for the following night. Boyd Gordon left the lineup and was replaced by Roman Lyubimov, and Brandon Manning came in for Nick Schultz.
In both cases, this was a play-driving liability come out of the lineup in favor of a replacement with positive metrics. It didn’t result in a victory, but the Flyers did come out ahead by advanced metrics, and I’m unconvinced that would have been the case with Schultz or Gordon in the lineup. One could argue that they never should have been in the lineup at all (Gordon especially), but I was personally impressed that Hakstol was willing to make tangible improvements to a lineup that had just won. They were the right moves, and ones that didn’t fit Hakstol’s usual modus operandi.
Subject: The best photos from the alumni practice in Voorhees
January 9, 2017: Philadelphia Flyers Alumni practice featured photo gallery
Subject: Tuesday Morning Fly By: More Saturday, less Sunday.
Today's open discussion thread, complete with your daily dose of Philadelphia Flyers news and notes...
*The Flyers are in (probably) snowy Buffalo this evening which means we get a blissful 7PM puck drop. Hopefully the boys pick it back up after Sunday's trash poop loss. Go Flyers!
*Before tonight's game look back at the last one with Charlie's 10 things. [BSH]
*Shockingly enough, the players were just as annoyed by Sunday's overturned goal as we were. [ProHockeyTalk]
*The Flyers' 50th season is bringing lots of fun looks back, like this one on the team's humble start. [Inquirer]
*Also...the Broad Street Bullies were a moneypuck team? Whaaaaaat... [Inquirer]
*Adidas is doing away with third jerseys next year. Which is annoying, because it doesn't seem like that should be Adidas' decision to make. [BSH]
*Hhhmmmm so what if German Rubtsov played in the AHL? [Highland Park Hockey]
*Remember Brian Boucher's shutout streak?? God that was a fun time. Boosh rules, how do you not love this man. [NHL.com]
Subject: BSH Radio #92: The Michael Raffl appreciation hour
The running theme of trying to figure out Dave Hakstol’s thought processes continues, but the gang also finds some time to give Michael Raffl some much-deserved praise.
What are you doing, Dave Hakstol? No, seriously, what are you doing? Boyd Gordon, Andrew MacDonald, Chris VandeVelde, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Dale Weise...WHAT ARE YOU DOING? Steph, Kelly, Charlie, and Bill debate the plethora of perplexing lineup decisions the second year coach has made, and try to understand his end of game strategy. The power play's struggles over the last month, Travis Konecny's usage, and the hilarity of the Edmonton Oilers are also discussed, as is the exact definition of goaltender interference.
Follow us on twitter @BSH_Radio so you can yell about Dave Hakstol right along with us.
Subject: Wayne Simmonds will represent the Flyers at 2017 NHL All-Star Game
It’s his first All-Star appearance.
Wayne Simmonds is your Philadelphia Flyers representative for the 2017 NHL All-Star Game. The NHL announced the full rosters for the game on Tuesday morning, and Simmonds will be the lone Flyer making the trip to Los Angeles at the end of the month.
It will be a bit of a homecoming for Simmonds, who was drafted by the Kings in 2007. He played two seasons with Los Angeles before being traded to Philadelphia in 2011.
Simmonds is having the best season of his NHL career thus far, with 17 goals and 15 assists in 42 games thus far. This will be his first All-Star appearance.
Here are the full rosters:
Sidney Crosby will captain the Metropolitan Division team — assuming he doesn’t come up with an excuse (or an injury, I guess) to skip the game. He’s been named to six All-Star teams but has played in just one All-Star Game in his career.
P.K. Subban of the Predators was named Central Division captain, as voted by the fans. He’s injured and could find himself needing a replacement, however. Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens is the Atlantic Division captain, and Connor McDavid will captain the Pacific Division All-Stars.
The 2017 NHL All-Star Game will be held January 29 in Los Angeles, and it again will follow a three-on-three tournament format. The All-Star Skills Competition will be held the night prior, also from L.A.
Subject: Flyers vs. Sabres preview, lineups, TV coverage, live stream and discussion
Ahh, Buffalo in January.
Have you ever been to Buffalo in January? I haven’t, but I’m imagining that it’s the grayest place on the planet, and also somewhere that the Flyers will play a hockey game tonight. They are at the
Marine Midland Arena HSBC Arena First Niagara Center KeyBank Center for a contest against the Sabres.
The Sabres are ... not in last place? That’s an upgrade for them I guess. At 15-15-9, Buffalo sits in a points tie with the Detroit Red Wings for last in the Atlantic Division, and they are one point ahead of the Islanders for the bottom spot in the conference.
Dan Bylsma’s team is pretty terrible still, though. They have just one scorer with more than 10 goals -- Kyle Okposo, named an All-Star today, with 12 in 38 games — and are scoring just 2.26 goals per game, which is fourth-worst in the NHL.
Buffalo has points in each of their last three games, but nevertheless, Bylsma is tinkering with the lineup in advance of this evening’s game. (Sound familiar?) Anders Nilsson will get the start in goal for the Sabres as regular starter Robin Lehner has the flu.
Steve Mason will be in goal for the Flyers. Full lineup below. Tonight’s game is on CSN Philly and CSNPhilly.com, as well as 97.5 The Fanatic. MSG has coverage in Upstate New York.
- Michael Raffl - Claude Giroux - Matt Read
- Travis Konecny - Sean Couturier - Jake Voracek
- Dale Weise - Brayden Schenn - Wayne Simmonds
- Chris VandeVelde - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Roman Lyubimov
- Ivan Provorov - Andrew MacDonald
- Michael Del Zotto - Radko Gudas
- Brandon Manning - Shayne Gostisbehere
- Steve Mason
- Michal Neuvirth
- Marcus Foligno - Jack Eichel - Brian Gionta
- William Carrier - Ryan O’Reilly - Kyle Okposo
- Evander Kane - Sam Reinhart - Justin Bailey
- Nic Deslauriers - Zemgus Girgensons - Matt Moulson
- Jake McCabe - Rasmus Ristolainen
- Zach Bogosian - Cody Franson
- Justin Falk - Taylor Fedun
- Anders Nilsson
- Robin Lehner
Subject: Flyers vs. Sabres recap: LOL the Flyers lost to the Sabres because why not
The Sabres are bad. They beat the Flyers. Hmmm
Folks, I’m not going to soften it up for you — I hate the Buffalo Sabres.
Now, there’s no real reason to hate the current day Sabres, what with them being a terrible hockey team and all. No, this hatred goes much much deeper. To understand this, let me take you back to the last time these teams met in the playoffs.
The year was 2011. I was a beautiful baby boy fresh out of college, ready to start my career at whatever job I could get. E.T. by Katy Perry and Kanye West was on the top of the Billboard Hot 100. John Boehner was the Speaker of the House. And, most importantly, Peter Laviolette lost his goddamn mind.
In a series that the Flyers so clearly should have won, then coach Laviolette decided it was a good idea to play three (3) different goaltenders in a single playoff series. First Sergei Bobrovsky, then Brian Boucher, then Michael Leighton for some reason, then back to Brian Boucher. To make matters worse, Laviolette also decided that a must-win playoff series was the perfect time to give Zac Rinaldo his NHL debut. The Sabres, through their inability to simply let the Flyers win easily, caused a coach who had led his team to the Stanley Cup Final just a year before look like a total and utter buffoon.
And Laviolette losing his mind would have been fine if it didn’t set into motion the craziest time in Flyers history. Just a few weeks later, Mike Richards and Jeff Carter were gone to make room for Ilya Bryzgalov. Paul Holmgren, presumably given the go ahead to blow up the team, did just that. And in my mind (which is always correct), this was all because of the Sabres.
And to add insult to injury, first ballot hall of famer Ville Leino became a free agent only to turn around a sign a long-term deal with our enemies.
Because of all this, I cannot stand the Sabres. They hurt me so bad, and in turn, I will hurt them the only way I know how: with a vicious on line own. So for tonight and hereafter, I will exclusively refer to them as the Buttfalo Sabres (owned).
So I’m not going to lie — I really have not been keeping up with whatever the Sabres have been doing the past few years. And can you really blame me? This team is hot garbage, and while they may have a few big ticket names, the rest of the guys are pretty much either no names or people that I can’t believe are still in the league.
And you know what’s kind of weird? The big ticket guys on the Sabres are ones that I probably would care about if they weren’t on the Sabres. Jack Eichel, Evander Kane, Ryan O’Reilly, and Kyle Okposo are all pretty good hockey players but lol they play on the Sabres so who cares? Like, if I read off those four names two years ago and you didn’t know what team they were on, you would think it would be a good team. But it is not because it is the Sabres, and this is very very funny to me.
Given all this, I expected the Flyers to utterly dominate out the gate. That...didn’t really happen. The first few minutes was just sloppy play by both teams. A lot of bouncing pucks and neutral zone flubs, not much else. Except for a fight between Nick Deslaureiers and Brandon Manning, which was at least entertaining. Manning lost, by the way, in case you were keeping count of these things.
So the rest of the period was pretty boring, but I started to notice something that was later confirmed by smart hockey man Charlie O’Connor — the Weise-Schenn-Simmonds line looked pretty good in the offensive zone. And while it feels very strange saying this, Dale Weise looked really impressive, showing patience with the puck and trying to set up chances down low. It was pretty wild, that’s for sure.
And then the Flyers failed to capitalize on a power play, the period ended, yada yada yada, and Sam Reinhart eventually scored on a Buttfalo power play early in the second period. It was incredibly uncool, and I think the Sabres were very uncool for doing it.
The Flyers responded to that goal by doing nothing in particular. The Sabres continued to control play, nearly scored again a few times, then finally increased their lead with a William Carrier goal off a juicy rebound.
And then a bunch of crap happened which eventually led to an Evander Kane goal with a few seconds to spare in the second.
The Flyers were getting pooped on by Buttfalo is what I’m trying to say. But hey, the last time I recapped a Flyers-Sabres game, Philadelphia ended up winning despite a three goal deficit. HmmmMmMMmMmMmMMMMmmmmm.
During the second intermission, I nearly lost it when I realized there was only like one scoop of ice cream left in the freezer. And it was peanut butter cup ice cream, which is really really good. I even bought some sugar cones to enjoy an ice cream cone in my adult house because when you are an adult you can do these things. But things were bad tonight, so I could not have an enjoyable ice cream experience. Nonsense.
I should have known that the ice cream thing was a bad omen, because even though Brayden Schenn eventually scored on the power play, the Flyers lost 4-1.
To the Sabres.
Here is a single observation:
- Andrew MacDonald is bad.
Subject: Wednesday Morning Fly By: That's Mr. All-Star Train to you, folks.
Today's open discussion thread, complete with your daily dose of Philadelphia Flyers news and notes...
*Andrew MacDonald is bad and he makes life bad.
*Here's Wayne, all happy and stuff about being given well-deserved honors. [Flyers]
*If you're interested in the rest of the All-Star info, that was all released yesterday. [NHL.com]
*Being in a league's best division is going to make the playoffs tough for our boys. [Sons of Penn]
*DGB hands out his NHL mid-season awards. [Sportsnet]
*Look at the NHL, finally getting actual big-name stars to participate in its marketing schemes!!! [Hollywood Reporter]
*Man, people go all-out on their backyard rinks sometimes. And it's so cool. [Puck Daddy]
*And finally, if you missed it yesterday, kill time before today's game with the latest episode of BSH Radio! There's yelling. It's fun. [BSH]
Subject: Sabres 4, Flyers 1: 10 things we learned from an exasperating loss
A strong performance from the Sabres’ backup goalie, an inability to finish on chances, and another poor Andrew MacDonald game pushed the Flyers to another loss.
Morning Observations is a feature where we break down the previous night's game with an analytical eye.
#1: Flyers generated shots and chances, couldn’t finish
After such a frustrating loss, it can be difficult to go back and look at it with a positive lens. But if you listened to the Flyers’ players in their locker room after the game (Claude Giroux especially), there wasn’t much in the way of despondency. The captain certainly wasn’t happy — there was an obvious undercurrent of anger in his voice — but he remained steadfast in his belief that his teammates did lots of things right, and for some reason just not getting rewarded.
Giroux isn’t really wrong. The Flyers outshot the Sabres 40-27, and won all of the key 5-on-5 shot volume battles. They dominated in raw volume, posting a 60.13% score-adjusted Corsi, and held a slight edge in xG during that situation, 1.86-1.73. Philadelphia posted even larger advantages after accounting for all situations — 64.29% in Corsi and 56.78% in xG. In terms of the overarching process, the Flyers didn’t do much wrong.
But despite all of that shot creation, the Flyers could manage just one goal on the night. That was due to a combination of a strong game from Buffalo backup netminder Anders Nilsson and an inability to either beat the goaltender with the first shot, or fight to the front of the net to collect the rebounds that Nilsson repeatedly allowed all game long. Even though the goalie absolutely had a strong game, the opportunities were there for Philadelphia. The Flyers simply couldn’t take advantage.
#2: Still, Hakstol deserves criticism for MacDonald
The above analysis focuses mostly on the Flyers’ inability to score more than one goal last night despite peppering the Buffalo net with shot attempts. That’s part of the story, but it fails to address the question of goal prevention. After all, Philadelphia allowed three goals in the second period, a deficit that they would never come close to overcoming. Those goals weren’t a result of bad luck, or especially poor goaltending, or even due to getting thoroughly outplayed. No, the goal prevention issues that the Flyers dealt with in the middle stanza can be primarily laid at the feet of two people: Andrew MacDonald for an absolutely awful performance, and Dave Hakstol for putting him a role where that poor play would prove this detrimental to his team.
Hakstol had made a number of shrewd moves recently. Following the return of Sean Couturier from injury, he’s cut the minutes of the Bellemare line dramatically (they received less than six minutes at 5v5 last night). The coach’s new third line of Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds and Dale Weise also has been surprisingly effective, cycling well on the attack especially. But there remains one glaring issue in terms of lineup optimization, and that is the continued presence of Andrew MacDonald as a top-four defenseman alongside Ivan Provorov. Last night, MacDonald was on the ice for all three Sabres goals during the second period and was primarily at fault on two of them. And these weren’t isolated mistakes — from the start of the contest, MacDonald was a complete mess. His team low 41.38% score-adjusted Corsi (-29.45% relative to his teammates) last night speaks to this. You don’t end up rating that poorly just due to a few big mistakes.
But how big those mistakes were. On goal #1, MacDonald lost coverage on the low man in Buffalo’s power play formation, leaving Sam Reinhart more than enough time along the goal line to collect the puck and blast a shot by Steve Mason. Goal #2 was primarily on Mason for allowing a huge rebound and the forwards for a poor backcheck, so MacDonald gets a pass there. But then he’s right back on center stage for the third Buffalo goal, where he kicked off the entire sequence with an awful pass up the middle of the ice in the defensive zone that was picked off.
Right now, Hakstol’s only healthy defenseman currently in the press box is Nick Schultz, so it’s not fair to criticize the coach too much for the fact that MacDonald is still playing on a nightly basis. The bigger problem is twofold — MacDonald continues to see top-four minutes, and he remains paired with Ivan Provorov. The Provorov-MacDonald pairing has been a disaster in terms of driving play at 5v5 for weeks now (43.15% score-adjusted Corsi together) and have only appeared to be passable because their on-ice goal-based results have been solid. But last night was predictable, because that decent goal differential was never going to hold up considering how often the pair was getting buried in their own zone. Eventually, pucks were going to start going into the net, and it’s on Hakstol that the duo’s underlying performance was ignored, allowing for this debacle to eventually occur. If MacDonald has to be in the lineup, he should be in a sheltered role, getting the least minutes of any defenseman. And the second Mark Streit can return, he should either take up a permanent residence in the press box or in Lehigh Valley. That’s the hard truth.
#3: Gostisbehere was stellar, and clearly is snakebit right now
While Andrew MacDonald was by a large margin the worst Flyers’ defenseman on the night, Shayne Gostisbehere was (by a nearly equal margin) the best one. Not only did Ghost finish with a strong 68.42% score-adjusted Corsi on the night, he also was the team’s best shot creator, putting seven on goal and racking up 11 total. He was dynamic all game long, constantly joining the rush, pinching to keep pucks alive on the cycle, and even activating down low with the puck to keep the Sabres off balance in coverage. It was a crime that Gostisbehere didn’t even earn a single point for this performance.
It hasn’t been a perfect season for Ghost, by any means. Now at the 41-game mark, the 23-year old defenseman has just four goals and 19 total points, on pace for less than 40 over a full schedule. But if Gostisbehere was granted a great deal of good fortune in his rookie season, the pendulum has swung the other way entirely this year. Despite driving far better shot attempt differentials (and more offense on the whole) in 2016-17 versus his rookie year, Ghost’s 5v5 scoring has fallen off a cliff. Some of that is on the player, as he could be doing a better job of getting shots through. But when an ultra-skilled, creative offensive defenseman has a lower 5-on-5 Points/60 than Brandon Manning, Radko Gudas and Nick Schultz, it just feels like an anomaly begging to be corrected in the season’s second half.
#4: Too many shots from the outside
If the Flyers have an issue in the offensive zone, it’s that their strategies are becoming all too predictable. Rather than look to pass the puck into the slot or set up shots via passes from behind the net, Philadelphia tends to fall back on point shots from defensemen as their primary way of generating offense, particularly when they are chasing a game. There’s some justification here — the Flyers do have a number of players such as Wayne Simmonds and Michael Raffl who thrive creating traffic in front and turning harmless shots from distance into dangerous chances. In addition, defensemen like Gostisbehere and Provorov do possess plus shots, so giving them extra opportunities to fire away isn’t a terrible call.
But there’s such a thing as too much. In the third period, Philadelphia sent 26 shots towards the Buffalo net at 5v5, but not one counted as a high-danger scoring chance. That’s because the dominant strategy late was to fire away from the point and hope for a deflection or a rebound. In a sense, you can argue that they didn’t “get the bounces,” but an maybe a better approach would be a shot generation strategy that isn’t almost entirely dependent upon getting those bounces.
#5: Do the Flyers have a new top pair?
For the majority of December, the Ivan Provorov-Andrew MacDonald duo was used by Dave Hakstol as his top defensive pairing, both in terms of raw 5v5 minutes, and by the matchups they tended to receive. On a nightly basis, 9-47 was facing top line competition and was getting hard matched by Hakstol, an obvious show of faith. However, in recent games, Hakstol has turned more towards his preferred top pairing from the 2015-16 season, the duo of Michael Del Zotto and Radko Gudas.
Del Zotto and Gudas led the defense (and the team) in 5v5 ice time against the Sabres, just as they did in Columbus. In fact, in every game of 2017, one of Gudas or Del Zotto has ranked in the top-two in 5v5 ice time. What we’re seeing is a shift away from the Provorov-MacDonald pairing at the top of the depth chart, and it’s a justified one. The “new” top pair of MDZ and Gudas delivered a stellar 67.74% Corsi For percentage last night, and they proved last year that they have the ability to drive play nightly. It’s unfortunate that Provorov can’t be a part of the top pair considering his skills, but as long as he remains joined at the hip to MacDonald, anything that takes away minutes from the latter is a good thing for Philadelphia.
#6: Power play finally scored
The fact that the Flyers’ top power play unit did not score a goal on their first opportunity of the game last night had almost nothing to do with Philadelphia’s performance and everything to do with the play of Anders Nilsson. It was a shooting gallery on the Sabres goaltender at 5v4, as the top unit blasted six shots in less than two minutes of ice time, for a dominant Corsi For per 60 rate of 240 — double the shooting rates of some of the best power plays in hockey.
Their goal late in the game was during a 6-on-4 situation, so it was a little different than your standard power play opportunity. Still, it was a positive to see the unit (plus Ivan Provorov) rewarded for their hard work early on, at least in terms of efficiency rating if not actual impact on the game. Some have criticized the PP for going through a bit of a rough stretch in terms of goals recently, and that’s fair to a degree. After all, it needs to light the lamp for Philadelphia to overcome its relative mediocrity at 5v5, which was a task it failed early in this game. But the process is sound — they’re still peppering goalies with shots, and creating quality chances as well. The floodgates are about to open up.
#7: Old worries return regarding new Giroux line
When Matt Read was added to the top line prior to the weekend, the primary concern was that his strengths as a play-driver at 5v5 would be overshadowed by his diminishing offensive game. It was a fair concern. After all, a line with Read, Michael Raffl and Claude Giroux probably should be expected to outscore the opposition over a large sample due to their likely territorial edge, but the “top” line is supposed to score goals, and Matt Read’s days as a 20-goal scoring sniper appear long gone. In their first game together, however, the trio did score a 5v5 goal, temporarily quieting the worries.
However, we’re now looking at two straight games that saw the Raffl-Giroux-Read line drive play but fail to light the lamp. The two wingers finished with stellar Corsi For percentages (67.25% for Read, 66.63% for Raffl) and the scoring chances were plentiful as well, just as they were in Columbus. But the goals were yet again nowhere to be found. To my eyes, it seems like the line is doing everything right except scoring. But I would understand if Hakstol, dealing with an entire lineup that is slumping, does not have the patience to wait for the results to match the underlying metrics.
#8: Bellemare line continues its descent in stature
It seems like just yesterday that Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and company were joined at the hip to Connor McDavid, functioning as the tough minutes shutdown line against maybe the best player in the world. But with the return of Sean Couturier, the Bellemare line has not merely been relegated to fourth line duties, but to true 5-on-5 afterthought. Sure, they still have received some shifts at key moments, including an odd appearance in the late stages of a 1-0 game in Columbus. For the most part, however, the line has been on the bench. In seven out of the last eight games, Bellemare has received less than 10 minutes of 5-on-5 ice time, and last night was the least demanding yet, as the Flyers’ 4C played in just 5:31 minutes.
Surely, this was partially due to the fact that the Flyers were trying to overcome a major deficit in the third period, and a line with Bellemare, Chris VandeVelde and Roman Lyubimov is not the one best suited for such a situation. But they were stapled to the bench even early on in this game. I think the decrease in role is primarily due to the fact that Hakstol currently has three “scoring” lines that he rightfully trusts, which creates less of a need for him to fall back on the Bellemare unit. It’s a positive trend, and one that hopefully holds.
#9: Jakub Voracek is struggling a bit
Despite Wayne Simmonds earning the Flyers’ one guaranteed spot in the All Star Game, I’d argue that Jakub Voracek has been the team’s best forward so far this year. Not only does he lead the team in scoring, Voracek also has taken a more active role on the PP this year, which has resulted in a more dangerous all-around unit. However, just because he’s having a great season, that does not mean he’s immune to criticism. Over the past eight games, Voracek has only scored in two of them, and has a negative Corsi relative to his teammates in six (not coincidentally, the games that he failed to score in).
He’s still showing flashes of brilliance, so I’m not especially worried that Jake is dealing with an injury or seeing his game regress. He just seems a bit off from a timing standpoint on too many shifts, resulting in failed entries into the offensive zone or uncharacteristic turnovers. My guess is that as the Konecny-Couturier-Voracek line regains its past chemistry, he’ll start to deliver better results at 5v5, but this is something to keep an eye on.
#10: Flyers can’t be giving away points against bad teams
Philadelphia has a tough weekend ahead, as they’ll face back-to-back games against the best play-driving team in the NHL (Boston) and then one of the most talented in the NHL (Washington). That’s why this midweek stretch against Buffalo and Vancouver felt so important. It’s not that the Flyers can’t beat the Bruins or Caps, but when you have two games against non-contenders right before that gauntlet, it’s an easy way to bank points in case the weekend goes bad.
Instead, the Flyers couldn’t even steal one point from the lowly Sabres. Even if they can defeat the Canucks (as they should), they’re now in a position where keeping pace with the clubs who are catching up to the Flyers in games played might require a sweep of the weekend back-to-back. And aside from a brief respite next weekend against the Devils and Islanders, things get tough again very quickly, with the Rangers, Kings, Canadiens, Blues and Sharks coming in the near future. Games against teams like Buffalo should be easy wins, not slogs like last night was.
Subject: Thursday Morning Fly By: Will the Flyers have a whale of a time tonight?
* Or is it ... an orca of a time? I don’t know. I like to think it’s just a whale. In any case, the Flyers play the Vancouver Canucks tonight! To celebrate, here’s a years-old piece about Vancouver’s jersey history. Shoulda kept the Flying V. [NHL.com]
* Anywho, there will likely be a change or two in the lineup for tonight’s game against said
orcas whales, says Dave Hakstol: [CSN Philly]
* But first let’s wrap up from Tuesday’s game against Buffalo with some observations, because I know we’re all dying to talk more about that gem of an outing: [BSH]
* Ron Hextall talked a bit about the Flyers’ struggles to score of late: [Philly.com]
* Bobby Clarke and Bill Barber discussed Saturday’s alumni game, saying it will be their last ones: [Philly.com]
* 41 years ago yesterday, the Flyers sent Valeri Kharlamov and the Soviet Red Army packing out of the Spectrum. Here’s a short video of that highlight: [Twitter]
* Elsewhere in the NHL, the big news last night was Alex Ovechkin’s 1000th career NHL point, scored in a win over Pittsburgh: [SBNation.com]
* With the NHL stealing “bye weeks” from the NFL, here are some other ideas they should steal: [The Hockey News]
* Did one of this past summer’s biggest trades — no, not that one, the other one — throw off the market for this season when it comes to trades? [Sportsnet]
* Pavel Datsyuk will be back in town for All-Star weekend, which likely means he’ll (unsurprisingly) be on the NHL’s Top 100 list: [PHT]
* Speaking of All-Star weekend, the NHL released its All-Star Game jerseys and I think they’re cool? [NHL.com]
* On the questions the Avalanche face about their core and their future, as another season falls apart for them: [Puck Daddy]
* Finally, hey, did you listen to this week’s BSH Radio yet? If not, you should! If so, you should listen to it again! Go ahead and click the play button on the Soundcloud player below this post.
Subject: Radko Gudas will be healthy scratch tonight
Is that the whole story? Only the Flyers know for sure.
Defense pairs:— Dave Isaac (@davegisaac) January 11, 2017
The presence of Shayne Gostisbehere alongside usual scratch Nick Schultz had many wondering if the dynamic blueliner would be sat in the press box for the second time this season, despite one of his better games of 2016-17 in Buffalo. Today, we learned that Gostisbehere will remain in the lineup, but that yesterday’s practice did contain hints of the lineup decision to come.
Radko Gudas will sit tonight, with the team designating him as a healthy scratch. Mark Streit is closing in on a return from injury, but he will miss tonight’s game as well, making the Streit-Gudas pairing from yesterday’s skate in Voorhees the true “scratch pairing.” Schultz will play in Gudas’ place.
Gudas’ performance in recent weeks has been mostly fine from a process standpoint, but the on-ice results have not been there. He has continued to drive play in terms of shot differential (both adjusted and nonadjusted), but the opposition has won the goals battle anyway.
Gudas over last ten games:— Charlie O'Connor (@BSH_Charlie) January 12, 2017
Corsi For percentage: 52.43%
xG percentage: 51.88%
Goals For percentage: 29.14%
trust the process please
The numbers imply that this is a rash decision, driven by the goal-based percentages not going Gudas’ way recently despite sound underlying play. However, there is a complicating factor that could help to explain this decision by Dave Hakstol. Gudas was a surprise scratch back on December 30th due to an injury, and there is some conjecture that this “healthy” scratch could actually be driven by a continuation of those issues.
Well, Hakstol said Gudas is healthy (and he wants to see more consistency in his game), but I think he’s significantly less than 100 percent— Dave Isaac (@davegisaac) January 12, 2017
@JohanGartner Gudas isn't healthy. Could play if asked but has been playing banged up. Not the worst idea to sit him a game.— Bill Meltzer (@billmeltzer) January 12, 2017
If this is truly a “get well soon” scratch rather than an indictment of Gudas’ recent performance (which has been generally okay aside from an awful game in Columbus), then the decision becomes easier to swallow. After all, Vancouver is not an especially strong team — even if they have battled back into the playoff hunt in the West — and the Flyers are playing at home, where the odds do shift in their favor. The team seems fully capable of earning two points even without Gudas.
Still, the only public information from the team came from Hakstol, who noted that he wanted to see more consistency in the blueliner’s game, so it’s justifiable to take his comment at face value as well. Either way, the defense takes a big hit with Gudas out of the lineup. He’s been the second best play-driver at 5-on-5 on the defense this season (behind Gostisbehere) and leads blueline in 5v5 time on ice per game. He also ranks third in Penalty Kill minutes per game. The Flyers are almost certainly a worse club in his absence.
Subject: Bob McKenzie: ‘Philippe Myers looks NHL ready, or close to it’
All of these young Flyers defensemen!
It’s extremely exciting times for the Philadelphia Flyers’ young defensemen.
Shayne Gostisbehere had a breakout rookie season. Ivan Provorov is having a similar performance. And what would you know: both, 23 and 19 years old respectively, are currently leading the Flyers in ice time.
There are still some, um, faults on the Flyers’ defense. But hopefully it’s these kids turning the corner that will help alleviate that.
Kids like Philippe Myers.
Based on what I saw at WJC, Philippe Myers looks NHL ready, or close to it: https://t.co/y38vVRSQee— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) January 12, 2017
Granted, this is just one man’s opinion based off of a very limited sample size, but then again, when that man is Bob McKenzie, well, you listen to that one man’s opinion.
Myers has come a long way since going undrafted. The 6’5, 202 lb. defender has 18 points in 19 games this season for the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, which puts him second in team defensemen scoring, even though he’s played 21 fewer games than the other guy.
He was also a top player for Team Canada at the World Juniors before suffering a concussion, scoring three assists in four round robin games before being unable to play further. Myers is still out for the time being, but is expected to make his return to his junior club later this month.
He’ll be 20 years old on Jan. 25, so this is it for him in junior. Myers will be turning professional next season, so that just leaves the question: which league will he play in?
If McKenzie thinks he has a shot at the NHL sooner rather than later, well, that would make three years in a row of a young, prospective Flyers defenseman entering the league. And hasn’t that been fun?
Subject: Flyers vs. Canucks preview, lineups, TV coverage, live stream and discussion
The Flyers need a win in the worst way. Can they get one tonight against a seemingly beatable opponent?
The Flyers are in a bit of a funk, having won just two of their last 11 games, and right before they hit their five-day bye week next week they’ve got a back-to-back against two very tough division rivals in Boston and Washington on Saturday and Sunday of this weekend. As such, winning the game they’ll play before they hit that tough duo of contests is something that is certainly in their best interests.
Fortunately, they may have a decent chance to get that win tonight as they face off with the Vancouver Canucks for the first time this season.
Or they may not. While the Flyers are floundering, Vancouver’s overtime loss in Nashville on Tuesday was their first in seven games, and they’ve managed to claw their way from the pit of the Western Conference to the border of the playoff picture over the past couple of weeks.
But, like ... the Flyers should win this game, right? That six-game winning streak that just ended merely pulled the Canucks back up above the .500 mark. Their goal differential is a cool minus-17, they’re 25th in the NHL in goals per game, and their possession numbers are in the bottom quarter of the NHL. The strong play of Noted Friend Of The Philadelphia Flyers Ryan Miller has been their biggest asset of late, and other than the Sedins, Loui Eriksson, and talented young center Bo Horvat, it just seems like there’s not a ton that threatens you, right?
Of course, now that I’ve said all of this, the Flyers will probably lose tonight and sweep their back-to-back this weekend. Hockey is stupid anyways.
Lineup-wise, the big change we know of is the absence of Radko Gudas, who is “reportedly” a healthy scratch. Scare quotes around the word reportedly because all of the beats seem to think he might actually be injured, as Charlie noted earlier today. Let’s hope that’s the case, because Gudas sitting for Nick Schultz is probably not the cure for what has ailed the Flyers lately.
While Schultz being in for Gudas is the only personnel change, it does sound like the Flyers are shifting pieces around in their top-6 right now, as Travis Konecny and Matt Read have swapped places in the lineup. We’ll see if it works, but Konecny playing alongside Claude Giroux should be fun to watch, in any case.
Game’s on CSN Philly, 97.5 The Fanatic, and CSNPhilly.com locally, SN Pacific in Canada, and Center Ice or NHLTV elsewhere. Go Flyers.
Flyers lineup (via)
- Michael Raffl - Claude Giroux - Travis Konecny
- Meat Read - Sean Couturier - Jake Voracek
- Dale Weise - Brayden Schenn - Wayne Simmonds
- Chris VandeVelde - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Roman Lyubimov
- Ivan Provorov - Andrew MacDonald
- Michael Del Zotto - Brandon Manning
- Nick Schultz - Shayne Gostisbehere
- Steve Mason
- Michal Neuvirth
Vancouver lineup (via)
- Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Loui Eriksson
- Sven Baertschi - Bo Horvat - Alex Burrows
- Markus Granlund - Brandon Sutter - Jayson Megna
- Brendan Gaunce - Michael Chaput - Jack Skille
- Alex Edler - Troy Stecher
- Luca “Lucas Pizza” Sbisa - Chris Tanev
- Nikita Tryamkin - Alex “Lou” Biega
- Ryan “I will not commit mass murder tonight” Miller
- Jakob Markstrom
Subject: Flyers vs. Canucks recap: Two points all count the same
A rather ugly hockey game saw the Flyers bounce back multiple times before Claude Giroux would celebrate his birthday with a shootout winner.
There are some nights where you just really need a freaking win. The Flyers, tonight, were experiencing one of those nights. It did not matter how exactly they did it, or how pretty it looked. In the middle of a 2-6-3 stretch, with a daunting weekend back-to-back staring them in the face, currently up against a very beatable team, this was simply not a game the Flyers could afford to lose.
And, despite what seemed like their best efforts at some times, they would manage to avoid doing just that.
Eight penalties, several defensive breakdowns, and some questionable goaltending were all things the Flyers were able to put behind them, coming back from down a goal twice in the game before taking a 5-4 shootout victory over the Vancouver Canucks at home.
The Flyers were determined to spend the early parts of this game running uphill, as Brandon Manning would take a four-minute high sticking penalty just over five minutes into the game and Michael Del Zotto would follow suit about three minutes later. The 50 seconds of overlap between the two stick infractions would be the Flyers’ early undoing, as Daniel Sedin would wire a 5-on-3 shot past Steve Mason from the high slot to give the Canucks the game’s first goal.
A Travis Konecny power play goal (that’s right, a goal by the second power play unit! It’s like a unicorn!), made possible by an outstanding play and pass by Dale Weise (in the offensive zone! It’s like seeing two unicorns!), is what would allow the Flyers to tie things up about three minutes later. That 1-1 score is how the two teams would head to intermission — but another two penalties before the period ended would set the stage for a wild second period.
It was again Manning and Del Zotto who took high-sticking penalties in the last two minutes of the first period, this time both two-minute penalties about 80 seconds apart. The Flyers were able to weather the 5-on-3 into the second period, but Vancouver’s Markus Granlund would score on a rebound right as the second penalty expired to give the Canucks a momentary lead.
And then the Flyers would make their next move, getting help offensively from guys who haven’t done much scoring this year. A beautiful pass by Matt Read led to Pierre-Edouard Bellemare firing a rocket past Ryan Miller for just his second goal of the season. That would create a tie game that would only last for 18 seconds — at which point Sean Couturier slammed home a fantastic pass down low by Jakub Voracek to give the Flyers a 3-2 lead.
But then that lead was also rather short-lived, as Granlund needed just 22 seconds after Couturier’s goal to slam a puck basically through Mason’s pads in close — surely Mason’s low point of the night — to tie the game back up. And the visitors didn’t need much more time to take their second lead of the game, with Vancouver taking advantage of some poor transition defense by the orange and black to see Brandon Sutter deflect a pass behind Mason right in front of the crease.
Hakstol would give Mason the rest of the period in net before making a change to Michal Neuvirth as the third period began. But much like earlier in the game, it was a penalty in the closing minutes of the second period that would set things up for the third.
This time, it was Vancouver who would be the guilty party, as former Flyers draft pick Michael Chaput would slash Giroux with four seconds left in the period. And it was Brayden Schenn, scoring on — you guessed it — the power play, as he took a below-the-goal-line pass from Giroux and placed it in the top corner as he fell to the ice.
That would be all of the scoring we’d get in this one, as the teams let the rest of the third and overtime pass with no further lamp-lightings. And in the shootout, it was the birthday boy, Claude Giroux, who would pot the only goal scored by either team, allowing the Flyers to escape the night with a victory.
- Tonight’s shootout win was the fifth shootout win for the Flyers this season. That is a franchise record. In the 11 previous seasons since the shootout came to be, the Flyers never had more than four shootout wins in a season before this one. That is truly a remarkable statistic, in the sense that it seems genuinely difficult to not have even one year in a decade where your team is even close to average at a skills competition.
- The Flyers killed off seven of eight penalties tonight, the first time they’ve had to kill off eight penalties in a regular-season game since October 5, 2013 against Montreal. (They had nine penalties in Game 3 against Washington last postseason, but, also, that game never happened.) Very impressive night for the penalty kill, which technically only gave up one goal during a 3-on-5, but maybe let’s see less of them going forward?
- I understand that special teams factors skew ice time on weird nights like this, but Shayne Gostisbehere being 5th among Flyers defensemen in overall and 5-on-5 ice time is odd, right? Particularly on a night where two other defensemen couldn’t stay out of the penalty box to save their lives?
- Steve Mason certainly did not have his finest night, allowing one goal (Granlund’s second goal midway through the game) that he simply has to stop and two others that were both varying degrees of stoppable though certainly not all his fault (we’ll give him a pass on Vancouver’s 5-on-3 goal due to a wicked screen right in his face). A ton of credit has to go to Michal Neuvirth, who was immediately peppered with several shots right after coming into the game in the third period (and stopped them all, plus three more in the shootout). Mason has started all but two games since December began, but with Neuvirth now looking back up to speed, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the two have more of a timeshare between now and the All-Star break.
- Yeah, pretty much:
Schenn: "That was ugly, wasn't it?"— David Strehle (@DStrehleTFP) January 13, 2017
Boston on Saturday afternoon. Washington on Sunday afternoon. Two big ones. Go Flyers. Here are your highlights.
Flyers figured the best way to start the game was taking 8 mins worth of penalties in the first 10 and giving up this goal. pic.twitter.com/jz4vKwo12s— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) January 13, 2017
Lemme tell ya about my boy Travy Konecny, he just tied the game. pic.twitter.com/2JBCkJsFby— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) January 13, 2017
Andrew MacDonald has been on the ice for 5 out of the last 6 goals against. Just saying. pic.twitter.com/7OV0gikWiN— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) January 13, 2017
Holy Snipe Bellemare! pic.twitter.com/8Stv9HlTFm— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) January 13, 2017
Slam.— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) January 13, 2017
2 goals in 18 seconds pic.twitter.com/Hvt4QSlnvy
Got snipes like Schenn pic.twitter.com/s02vqpbkdp— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) January 13, 2017
Can always count on Claude! pic.twitter.com/h09lBGRdPJ— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) January 13, 2017
Neuvirth the save!— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) January 13, 2017
Flyers win! pic.twitter.com/LSFYn5bsgJ
Shootout win = Happy Neuvy pic.twitter.com/0hVRvji5H3— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) January 13, 2017